Despite two very different upbringings, Harvey and Debbie Kliman developed similar values around giving. Harvey, the youngest of four boys, grew up in Boston, MA.His parents, who immigrated to the United States from Western Ukraine, maintained an Orthodox Jewish household and made a living in the real estate business. Harvey first learned the value of community as a child when he watched his father establish a small synagogue in their neighborhood so that friends and community members had a place to gather and worship as they wished.
“My parents were immigrants and we benefited from America, and although their lives were much harder than mine, it just seemed to me that giving back was something that I should be doing, and in a very general, community oriented way,” said Harvey.
Debbie, an only child, was born and raised in Hamilton, NY, where her family has lived for generations. Since Debbie’s parents divorced when she was only five, she was raised by her mother, an elementary school principal, and her aunt, who worked as the village librarian for 30 years. Both women were prolific volunteers, serving on many village boards, committees and commissions, a tradition that Debbie has eagerly continued.
“My mother and aunt were both givers,” said Debbie. “I grew up with it.”
Harvey and Debbie have carried a community-oriented mindset with them everywhere they’ve lived. They met and married in Princeton, NJ, then moved to Newark, DE shortly thereafter. While working for DuPont in Wilmington, DE, Harvey got involved in the town government. A few years later, the pair moved to Chadds Ford, PA, where Harvey ran for office and became an elected supervisor. Debbie ran a private psychology practice and worked with nonprofits serving children and families. Here in Hamilton, where they returned to live in Debbie’s childhood home after retirement, they have both built up an extensive history of community involvement and continue to serve on several village commissions and nonprofit boards.
Debbie, who volunteers at Worn Again, a gently-used clothing shop for rural residents, fondly recalls a winter not too long ago when she was able to help a man find an outfit for his daughter’s wedding. Harvey proudly recounts how he and the local land trust helped a family-run dairy farm secure a New York State grant that will keep the farm operational for future generations and protect the land for agricultural use forever. In addition to their time, they also give back financially through their family foundation and the Community Foundation.
“We give because we can,” Debbie said.
“And if we had more, we could give more,” Harvey added.
While their attitude toward giving is straightforward, the causes they support are wide-ranging. They have joint and individual interests based on their backgrounds, but the majority of their support is community-oriented, with an emphasis on Hamilton and Madison County.
In an effort to complement and amplify their impact, they began making an annual gift to the Community Foundation’s Community Fund, a flexible fund that pools gifts of all amounts from community members to respond to the region’s most pressing needs. Gifts to the Community Fund support our Community Grantmaking program, which fuels nonprofits working to make a positive difference in the communities of Onondaga and Madison counties, and our Strategic Initiatives, which harness the power of community collaboration to proactively address emerging issues and opportunities.
“Many of the causes the Community Foundation supports are near to my heart,” said Debbie, who encountered a lot of similar issues– poverty, racial inequity, access to education
and housing, domestic violence – in her work as an educator and psychologist.
She and Harvey focus on what they can do on their own – whether it’s giving money to the village food cupboard or donating an electric police bike to the Hamilton Police Department – and then partner with the Community Foundation to expand their reach both geographically and programmatically. By combining their support with others through the Community Fund, they are able to give more.